Cruising the Croton on a kayak and watching large-scale puppets tell tales of the river are two of the activities visitors can enjoy on Sunday, Aug. 3, at Van Cortlandt Manor’s River Day, an event devoted to the history and ecology of the area’s watershed.
Hudson River Recreation will be performing kayak demonstrations during this celebration of the environment, allowing experienced kayakers to test drive new models while beginning kayakers can get their feet wet learning the sport.
River Day, which takes place from 12-6, is a festival-style event with an emphasis on hands-on activities that teach children and adults about the area’s fragile watershed. “Both the Hudson River and the Croton River have been a source of commerce, travel, food, and recreation for centuries. Through games, workshops, and demonstrations, we’ll delve into the past and present uses, thoughts, and concerns about these rivers,” said Althea Corey, site director of Van Cortlandt Manor.
Arm-of-the-Sea will be performing the hour-long “At the Turning of the Tide” at 2 p.m. The “eco-logic” theater group uses poetry, lusciously painted puppet figures, and beautiful mask characters in this production celebrating the life and times of the Hudson River. Archetypal scenes portray the tidal rhythms of the river, the eat-and-be-eaten dance of the food chain, the invention of the steamboat, settlement of river towns, and the modern battles to clean up the river.
Costumed interpreters will demonstrate how 18th-century Hudson Valley residents performed such marine-related tasks as fishing and boat building, and will demonstrate 18th-century tasks such as fishnet tying, cooking, milling, coopering, and blacksmithing. Visitors will be encouraged to lend a hand.
Other activities planned include fishing using 18th-century-style poles and games that teach children about water and river ecology.
Rocking the Boat, a non-profit youth development organization in The Bronx, will be demonstrating the wooden boats they create by hand.
A number of regional educational organizations and environmental advocacy groups are bringing hands-on educational activities to River Day, including the Hudson River Museum, the Hudson River Estuary Program, Beczak Environmental Education Center, Hudson River Water Trail Association, Riverkeeper, Saw Mill River Audubon, Toll House Museum, and Teatown Lake Preserve.
MALFA, local expert archeologists, will bring exhibits of artifacts from digs in the lower Hudson region.
Music will be provided by Jim Keyes and his band Sportin’ Jenny. Other performers include fiddler Felix Farrar, storyteller Jonathan Kruk, and folk singer Iris Cohen. Picnic food from Geordanes in Irvington will be available.
The Croton River, which empties into the Hudson River about a half-mile past the Manor House on the Van Cortlandt estate, was used in the 18th century as a dynamic water source, powering gristmills and sawmills. The Van Cortlandt family kept its boats moored just beyond their icehouse, enabling the transportation of people and goods down the Hudson River. Today, the Hudson River still carries great cargo ships to and from New York City and other stops along the way, but both rivers are also abundantly used for fishing and boating throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Admission to River Day at Van Cortlandt Manor is $12 for adults; $10 for seniors; $6 for children 5-17; and free for children under 5 and HHV members. Tickets are available online at www.hudsonvalley.org. Van Cortlandt Manor, a Historic Hudson Valley site, is at 525 South Riverside Avenue (off Route 9) in Croton-on-Hudson. For information: 914-271-8981.